By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
In a nutshell
Wales won a third Grand Slam in eight seasons at the Millennium Stadium to equal the achievement of the Seventies greats. Alex Cuthbert, fast becoming a key member of this Wales team, scored the game’s only try, cutting a lovely angle to touch down after Alun Wyn Jones had secured a key turnover. Leigh Halfpenny provided Wales’ other points with his boot, but they were never able to build a comfortable lead. The French tactics were limited – focusing on putting boot to ball far too often – but their defence was superb and they held firm despite Wales dominating territory and possession. It may not have been a convincing margin, but Wales showed a maturity and patience to complete this RBS 6 Nations clean sweep.
Dan Lydiate’s superb tackle on Wesley Fofana in the 52nd minute not only brought the France wing’s run to a halt but allowed his team-mates to pounce and secure a penalty for holding on. Leigh Halfpenny stepped up to nail the kick from a metre inside his own half and Wales then had a 13-6 lead.
Wales blindside Dan Lydiate was undoubtedly the Man of the Match. His contribution may not be as visible as someone who makes surging runs, but the hard graft he puts in during a match is phenomenal. He is an incredible tackler and never shies away from getting stuck in at the contact area, and his work-rate and support play stepped up another gear in the second half after Sam Warburton was forced off with a shoulder injury.
Room for improvement
France still need to figure out what their game plan is. In Cardiff they seemed happy to kick the ball away whenever they had possession and relied on the opposition conceding penalties to build a score. Philippe Saint-Andre must stamp his mark during the summer tour to Argentina so that France can make the most of the talented players they have. At the moment, they are a group of individuals rather than a team.
Wales’ indiscipline is still an issue. Again they gave away unnecessary penalties that allowed France to stay in touch. They have developed more patience and sensibly keep play with the forwards if there isn’t quick ball, but they seemed to respond to France’s kicking tactics by resorting to the boot a lot themselves. They could cause opponents more problems by keeping the ball in hand and will certainly not want to give Australia’s back three prime counter-attacking ball on their June tour.
In quotes – winners
Wales captain Sam Warburton: “You have got to give a lot of credit to the French. They were quick off the line in defence and it was difficult to get our game going. But we won at the end of the day, that’s all that counts. It is an unbelievable achievement, I never thought it was going to happen. It really makes all the sacrifices worthwhile.”
Man of the Match Dan Lydiate also dedicated the win to former Wales No 8 Mervyn Davies, who sadly died on Thursday, saying: “He was a legend of the game, our thoughts go this family, this one’s for him.”
France conceded 13 penalties to Wales’ ten. It was a significant drop in discipline for Les Bleus because they had given away just 20 in their previous four Six Nations games.
Incredibly, France made more than five times the number of errors as Wales – 16 to three.
Wales put together 164 passes to France’s 99 and made just 69 tackles compared to 113 hits from the French.
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies (Scott Williams 53-61), Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips (Lloyd Williams 64); Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees (Ken Owens 64), Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (Luke Charteris 64), Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt, Ryan Jones h-t), Toby Faletau.
Try: Cuthbert. Con: Halfpenny. Pens: Halfpenny 3.
FRANCE: Clement Poitrenaud (Jean-Marcellin Buttin 36); Welsey Fofana, Aurelien Rougerie, Florian Fritz, Alexis Palisson (Francois Trinh-Duc 53); Lionel Beauxis (Morgan Parra 72), Dimitri Yachvili; Jean-Baptiste Poux (Vincent Debaty 45), William Servat (Dimitri Szarzewski 45), David Attoub, Pascal Pape (Julien Pierre 68), Yoann Maestri, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Julien Bonnaire, Imanol Harinordoquy.
Pens: Yachvili 2, Beauxis.